The Mecca of Metal… Every sane metalhead wants and has to go there at least once in a lifetime, for it is the craziest, the most magnetic, fulfilling, empowering experience of the kind.
It is a pilgrimage, with all the ordeals the term implies. It is prepared months in advance by most participants and usually takes several stages to reach the destination. This year, I saw people from all continents (it’s quite a unique and nice feeling to see an Afro headbanging to Nordic metal!) and I had watched various social networks to get the vibe – and what a vibe! Many were visibly concerned with the countdown! Calculating, anticipating, arranging, expressing enthusiasm, that’s what the web could show me from fellow pilgrims.
Tuesday, 3rd August
Yes, my first time in Wacken is this year! 😀 I took a night bus to Bucharest, then a plane to Munich and one to Hamburg, where I could roam almost freely for half a day, after a sleepless night (already). From Remedy Records the Metal Bus took me to the awesome place – Wacken village in the Schleswig – Holstein county of Germany (the northernmost!) …or Schlossgold – Holsten, my version 😀
In the bus, there was a very loud group of Spanish dudes, singing metal anthems all the way and shouting whenever a road sign was at sight, hoping for the holy one to appear… I was very much amused and happy that the driver could focus so well in such noise and madness! Then, there it was, the mighty black tower with the bullhead, then the pretty houses and gardens of the village… and we were all rather silent, in amazement of such accomplishment. When stepping out, the first thing we got to see was the parking lot for buses and taxis. We followed the main road to the village and dived completely into the most amazing atmosphere: metalheads arriving by bus, metalheads driving their cars, metalheads already carrying beer from the supermarket, and all of them greeting randomly by happily shouting “WACKEEEEN!!!” It was on very rare occasions in my life that I had such a feeling of brotherhood, that people can still be nice to each other and enjoy what they can build together… The speakers were blasting brutal metal tracks, the well-known W:O:A duct tape stickers were proudly displayed on most of the cars, beer started to flow – and it was only Tuesday!
As the night drew in, I joined the bunches of people on the small field before the gates – those have set their camp there because not everybody wants to pay the 10€ fee for “early arrival”, which would be aborted at midnight, with the official opening of the camp ground. I also had to wait for my Finnish crew to arrive, as my festival ticket was with them… The mood never ceased to amaze me: nobody was just waiting – there were people wrestling, doing a wall of death, singing heroic songs around a sword (!) pinched into the ground and so on! One couldn’t help but just feel the euphoria!
Wednesday, 4th August
A day to enjoy ourselves, without many gigs, but with the “Metal Battle”.
W:O:A is still not officially open. However, loads of stuff is already there to see and much action, so we’re on the move as we wake up. My delicacy of choice is the “Wackinger Village“, a wonderful space where my passion for medieval and Norse lifestyle was like at home! It has many tents with merchants, with bakers, cooks and such, with weaponry and various challenges brought from the history. There were knights, there were Vikings, ladies, pirates, magic potions, mead, swords and shields, even wooden ‘bathtubs’ in which people enjoyed some cold beer! But I’d rather let the pictures speak of the beauty and complexity of this sublime ground….
Nevertheless, one needs to mention the great attraction, the very home of the metalheads, the realm of total craziness: the CAMPGROUNDS! Me and my friends were somewhere in Campground D, on or near “Metallica Avenue” :D. We had average neighbours, to say so. One night, a few of them kept on trying to enter one of our tents, and they were insisting on that. Well, the first one was no surprise, but the second one doing so was a bit worrying. Besides these there were 2 more groups which I really liked. One of them was from UK. The neighbours got my mood very high, as they played Lordi, Korpiklaani, In Flames, Ex Deo and Rotting Christ – exactly with my favorite songs! Cheers guys!!
Actually the music is a very important aspect here in the campground. It never stops! It did only on Sunday early morning and it felt so eerie… Yeah, I really got used to it, blasting from several directions, loud as hell. No worries for my rest, I could easily sleep with all the noise, because I was exhausted. But seriously, Wacken never sleeps! At every given hour, some people must be awake! And they party, party, party with metal, metal, metal. Techno too, occasionally. To some, it may sound like hell, but I sincerely miss the Wacken “sleep time”, when I was drifting away to dreamland while listening to melodeath…. Oh yeah, and there were fireworks too, loads of them from nearby places.
How about the daytime in the campground? Oh well, that’s quite a topic! First, the tip for easy orientation: just take notice of the flags. Once you’ve kept in mind the flags in your area, you’re sure to never miss the spot. And remember the breakfast points/ toilets and stuff. The shower camps are not so many – only 5 of them in the whole place. And the campground is huuuge, it’s a town of its own! We were rather lucky, just 20 minutes away from the festival area. Anyway, the distance to walk proved to be extremely enjoyable, since a lot of people along the way were up for having Wacken-style fun. The most hilarious of all was the “slow motion zone” – you can watch it here and here. The fever went even further, and thus we got this “slow motion wall of death“. Or maybe you are interested in the “tent racing“! Then, some campers built a sort of hotel (!), others had their own bars and discos, pools and whatever was required for enjoyment and comfort. We only got ourselves a torch to light at night in the middle of our camp, to gather around it and worship the gods of metal, while sacrificing bottles of beer, sangria and whiskey. But soon some neighbours bought several torches for their open air terrace and ruined the whole mystic experience.
What to Wear at W:O:A
1. T-shirts with suggestive inscriptions
3. Leather and bare skin
4. Long coats – they’re dark and they’re metal
5. Cowboy hats – almost a uniform
6. Costumes & cute dresses – where else to wear them freely?
7. The absolutely necessary Wacken t-shirt
8. Any warrior clothing will do… (doesn’t always have to be medieval, does it?)
What to Buy
This has to be the occasion on which a metalhead can enjoy the sight of all lovely items for his soul, for his travelling and home. I was warned before, “Take some extra money with you, you won’t resist what they sell there!”. It was more than right. After all, the average metal dude/dudette has at least a slight fascination for the medieval, the dark and the creepy, for skulls, weapons, black garments, specific jewelry and such. I was dreaming of Norse artifacts and got them. I was lusting for royal long coats à la Kamelot’s Roy Khan and found them. All is very well organized: Wackinger Village is for the ancient and traditional, while the Metal Market is for the modern, the glam, the gothic, the thrashy and even more. Swords, chain mail and helmets are available there too.
I trained myself well in advance with youtube videos, so it was no surprise that the village and its dwellers were all at peace with such brutal happening and actually supporting it, in many ways. It was lovely to see those beautiful houses displaying W:O:A flags at their doors or windows, and many of them were actually catering for the visitors by selling home baked food and even setting up a bar or terrace for the drinkers, which were always gathering happy customers. It felt like the festival had absolutely no limits and the metal spirit was everywhere. Strange and disappointing fact though, most of the village stores employees, as well as most in-site festival bartenders seemed to have no clue about English. They wouldn’t understand not even the too common words, and were constantly trying to fool people (assuming they were all drunk) when they gave the change back. Well, one wouldn’t expect such treatment in Germany. It happened several times to my friends, and I’m sure there were other victims too.
Apart from that, most Germans are very helpful. If you’re lost or in any need of help, they make sure that you find your way and get what you have to. And they’re open minded people, even the grannies. They know that W:O:A does no harm… Moreover, it’s good for the economy! All their gardens are lush and the homes are perfectly looking! I adored the Wacken village, it’s such a visual treat.